Jeb Bush is now “concerned” about climate change. He also believes the U.S. needs to work with other countries to “negotiate a way to reduce carbon emissions.” Though some environmental groups remain skeptical –largely because Bush also embraced natural gas as the primary tool to reduce U.S. emissions — these statements strike me as worthy of praise. Most (though not all) of the Republican contenders for President are either outright deniers or naysayers. Bush has now placed himself squarely in the small group of Republican candidates who acknowledge the problem. Even more importantly, he’s also saying we ought to do something about it and to play a role in global negotiations. That’s a significant advance in Bush’s previous public statements on the issue, which included a lot of waffling about whether the science is certain enough.
So why the change in position during the primaries, when the Koch brothers’ money is still up for grabs and the primary electorate is much more conservative than voters in the general election? Two reasons. The first is that views on climate change are changing even among Republican voters. More than half think we should take action to combat global warming. But even more important is that 48% of Republican voters are more likely to support a candidate for President who believes that climate change is occurring and that we need to do something about it. Second, at least one major donor to Republican causes and a support of Jeb Bush, metals refiner Andy Sabin, is pressuring Bush to lead on climate change. In the interests of full disclosure, Sabin is a board member of the Emmett Institute and a contributor to it. He’s also passionate about environmental issues. His publicly stated goal is to make Jeb Bush the next Teddy Roosevelt. Money clearly speaks in political campaigns. It’s nice to see that it just might make a difference in the right direction for once.